New York With No Clue

At 21 years of age, I flew into New York City, alone, on American Airlines.  The company had allowed me to check two bags, therefore I chose the largest I could find and threw in everything I could think of.  I navigated one of those push carts and finally made my way to the taxi pickup area.  The horns honking and people shouting were just like in the movies.  I smiled at all the noise. It seemed so exciting. I was a Flight Attendant living in New York City.  Yes I know I hadn’t unpacked, or found a place to live, but that would be easy it’s NY City, there must be a million places to live.  

Fortunately I was meeting three other new hire Flight Attendants at the Milford Hotel in the city.  When you are a New Yorker, you start calling it “the city.”  The Milford Hotel at that time was one of our layover hotels, until a maid was found stabbed to death in one of the bath tubs.  The rooms were tiny, really tiny, but on a new hire salary, all four of us were sharing one room.  I still don’t know how we got all of our luggage in that little box.  It was wall to wall luggage and lipstick.  One of the girls from Dallas TX had lived in a larger city, and actually had a plan.  She had scoured the papers and magazines for rentals, but at the disappointment of most of us, our budget would end us up in Queens instead of “the city.”

We were the first Flight Attendants to move into 119-40 Metropolitan Ave., Kew Gardens, Queens.  The building was family owned, and we all knew the owner and head of the family as Frank.  Frank and his sons, made it a point to be very good to us, even picking us up in the family station wagon to move us from the Milford to Queens.  The apartment building was brand new and very nice.  We even had an intercom to buzz folks in when they came to visit. Pretty hi-tech for where I came from. We furnished the two bedroom apartment with modest means.  The bed I purchased was a futon type thing. Early on I knew that I would never truly call New York home. Exciting and fun that it was, the big city life was great to visit, but as the saying goes, “I wouldn’t want to live there.”  To this day, New York City is one of my favorite cities to visit.

After about a week in New York, I flew my first trip.  Back then the crew would sometimes play jokes on the new hires.  I was asked by the Captain to take an air sickness bag into the cabin, capture an air sample, and bring it to the cockpit.  Luckily about half way through the retrieving of the bag, I realized it must be a joke.  I was also put into the overhead compartment in first class.  I was pretty small back then.  The agent failed to give the crew a heads up that we were boarding, so first class passengers got a peak at the crew trying to get me out of the bin.  My first layover was on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale, I still have a photo somewhere of me and the crew on the beach having a cocktail. I knew I was going to love my job.   

My second month in New York, I was on what they call Reserve.  I had certain days off, and the rest of the days I had to be on call to the company.  I carried a beeper and the one who had my number was crew schedule. I was on call to three different airports, so my bag always stayed packed and ready to go. Flight attendants on reserve kept two staples in their bags, a swimsuit and a sweater because you never knew where you might end up.  I was still a huge country music fan and on one evening I went to a concert at Madison Square Gardens.  Alabama and The Judds.  Half way through the concert my beeper went off.  I was given an assignment for early the next morning.  I don’t remember going to bed that night.

In the small area where we lived in Kew Gardens, we felt almost like celebrities.  Everywhere we went we were asked if we were Flight Attendants.  Looking back, we were all young, cute, girls with accents from other parts of the U.S. and we hadn’t quite made our way in the craziness, so I’m sure we stood out.  Back then I didn’t mind standing out, I liked the attention.  

I became pretty good at getting around using the subway system and buses.  I loved going into the city.  We would go shopping, out to clubs, and sometimes just walk the city to see the sights.  I didn’t realize back then that I wasnt’ be very smart at times with my travels.  I would take the subway alone and sometimes come back later at night than I should have.  I was flashed by a middle aged white man, and mooned by a crazy man, but I was never hurt or robbed.  I learned to walk like I was on a mission.  That first few months I saw Donald Trump, Cindy Lauper, and Cheech Marin from Cheech and Chong.  

Then one day the announcement was made.  American Airlines was opening a Flight Attendant Base in Nashville, TN.  Yee-Haw pick me….and they did.

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